Obituary / Soccer With Rabin, a Room With Peres

Born in Kovno, Lithuania, Shmuel Cohen moved with his family to Palestine at the age of one. He spent his childhood in "Little Tel Aviv," and the house of his father, the founder of the Hanoar Haoved (Labor Youth) movement, was a popular place for visiting leaders of the Jewish settlement in Palestine. One of his teachers at Beit Hinuch, a school for workers' children, was Eliezer Shmueli, the author of "Anshei Bereshit" (People of Genesis). He used to play soccer with a redhead named Yitzhak Rabin. When he boarded at the Ben Shemen educational institute, Cohen shared a room with Shimon Peres, who amazed him with his ability to write convincing literary forgeries of Leon Trotsky.

He was one of the first to enlist in the Palmach, and fought under Yigal Allon in the Yiftah Brigade in the north. Mula's rapid-fire promotions began when the brigade moved to the central front: He first became a battalion commander and then the youngest brigadier in the Israel Defense Forces. In his book, "To Give and to Get," he spoke candidly about the expulsion of the Arabs of Lod and Ramle: "What could we do? In war, you have to do the sort of things that are improper during peaceful times." The brigade took up a position in the Negev, where it drove a wedge between the Egyptian forces in Ashkelon and Gaza. The young brigade commander excelled at leading his men to victory, and morale in the Yiftah Brigade was high.

Mula married Tamar Lis of Kibbutz Degania Aleph, but when the United Kibbutz movement split, they moved to Alonim. Just before the Sinai Campaign, Cohen was on an archaeological tour of Ramat Rachel, near Jerusalem, when a Jordanian Legionnaire opened fire, killing four. Mula was wounded and missed the war. Active in the United Kibbutz movement, he enlisted families from older settlements to help out the younger settlements, which had been established by the men who served under him in the Yiftah Brigade.

During the Yom Kippur War, Mula Cohen assisted GOC Northern Command Yitzhak Hofi in looking after the settlements on the Golan Heights. In the wake of the terrorist attack on Ma'alot in 1974, when the public's sense of security was undermined, Cohen founded the Civil Guard. His colleagues from the Palmach were its original commanders, but he made sure to enlist personnel from all shades of the political and social spectrum. Within a single year, 550 local bases were established and tens of thousands of volunteers signed up. Mula traveled the land, infusing the volunteers with enthusiasm. Some police officials did not look kindly upon what they considered his generous award of ranks, but no one really held it against him since they all knew that he was always professional and above board, and never sought anything for himself.

Following the death of his commander and friend Yigal Allon, Mula established Beit Allon in his memory. He himself won the Yigal Allon Prize for an outstanding act of pioneering. Cohen also took on himself the management of the "Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for Military Literature," named for the founder of the Palmach. At his 70th birthday celebration, seated on either side of him were his old friends Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, forgetting their rivalry for a moment. From 1989, he served as head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, where he fought for the establishment of regional communities, indirectly saving the social and educational fabric of the valley. He also played a strong role in establishing the state memorial that honors the fallen Bedouin soldiers of the IDF, at Hamovil intersection.

A light inside him seemed to go out after Rabin's assassination, and in recent years his body betrayed him. As a man for whom friendship and loyalty were everything, he used his manifold connections to help thousands with their everyday problems. Many of them attended his funeral, mourning the passing of "a good man" together with the Palmach veterans. (Uri Dromi)